Despite the grousing and inconvenience caused by the extra 4 1/2 hours Gov. William Donald Schaefer ordered 40,000 state workers to put in every week, "Schaefer time" is actually a blessing in disguise. Without these added work hours, the governor would probably have to fire at least 4,000 employees to balance the budget.
Layoffs may still happen if employee unions win their court suit seeking to overturn the longer work week. They lost yesterday at the circuit court level and are appealing the decision to the Court of Appeals. Yet if they win this case it would turn out to be a bitter victory, indeed.
Budget officers came up with the notion of imposing a 40-hour work week for a number of reasons: it should save the state money (perhaps as much as $180 million a year); it should improve productivity and reduce the need for additional bureaucrats to handle the work load, and it will set a uniform 40-hour work week for all state employees (some now put in 35 1/2 hours while others work 40 hours, with no difference in pay).
For thousands of state workers who will have to log extra time starting today, the longer day means big changes in their lives. But once the adjustment has been made, complaints should subside. After all, most of America's work force operates on a 40-hour work week and has managed to adjust.
In issuing his order lengthening the work day, Governor Schaefer tried to balance the budget in the most painless way. Foes forget that one of his other options last December was to cut 10,000 people from the state payroll. That would have devastated many of the workers now being asked merely to remain on duty a little longer.
Yes, two-thirds of the state's workers will be at their desks later each day, forcing a rearrangement of their personal schedules. But layoffs have been averted so far. For that achievement, the governor deserves praise from state workers, not derision.